The Future of the Industry: More answers to fire alarm system installation questions

By Wayne D. Moore | Feb 15, 2024
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Below are questions often raised by those in the field trying to understand the requirements that affect their fire alarm system installations. 

Below are questions often raised by those in the field trying to understand the requirements that affect their fire alarm system installations. 

Does wireless technology represent the future of the industry?

As you no doubt realize, NFPA 72-2022, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, has an entire section devoted to low-power, wireless fire alarm technology in 23.16. These requirements focus on fire alarm initiating devices that communicate with a fire alarm system control unit using a low-power wireless transmission method.

Additionally, as stated in Annex A, “For the 2022 edition of the Code, new requirements have been added that affect the operation of the pathways that are used to transmit signals between the devices and the control unit of a wireless fire alarm system. The requirements are similar to the pathway requirements for wired pathways of the same class of circuit. Just like a Class B wired pathway, Class B radio pathways do not include a redundant pathway. The capability of the pathways must be verified to be end-to-end operational, and a trouble signal is to be produced if the intended operation of the pathway is compromised in some way. As in the case with a Class B wired circuit, operation of the Class B wireless path stops at the spot where the pathway is somehow affected, such as in the loss of a repeater.

“Finally, in order to maintain a sufficient power supply to operate, each transceiver or repeater must be provided with primary and secondary power like a traditional fire alarm system (see Section 10.6) or be provided with multiple primary batteries as required by”

There are also new wireless “mesh networks” recognized by NFPA 72. NFPA 72-2022 also has Section 26.6, which is devoted to wireless means of transmitting fire alarm, supervisory and trouble signals from a protected premises to a supervising station. This section has requirements for two-way radio frequency multiplex systems and one-way private radio alarm systems. For each type of system, only a limited number of manufacturers have obtained listing. A potential user needs to create a very careful cost analysis between wireless and wired technologies. Each application will have unique features that may skew the analysis.

In some cases, wireless technology has distinct installation advantages, while nonwireless technology will have an edge in others. The key to choosing any technology rests with using listed components and systems. By meeting the requirements of NFPA 72-2022 chapters 10, 12 and 23, a facility owner can help assure a baseline level of quality for an installed fire alarm system.

What does the future of fire alarm systems hold? No one really knows for certain. Likely, wireless technology will play an increasing role over time, but the trade-off from saving money up front in installation costs may be lost on the backend of continued battery replacement and maintenance.

Where can I find examples to properly fill out the Emergency Communications Systems Supplementary Record of Inspection and Testing form in Chapter 7?

The National Fire Protection Association publishes a companion volume to NFPA 72-2022 known as the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code Handbook. Starting on page 158 is an example of a filled-out version of the System Record of Inspection and Testing form. Following that are all the additional forms required by Chapter 7, including Figure 7.8.2(k), Emergency Communications Systems Supplementary Record of Inspection and Testing. This example should materially assist you in learning how to properly complete this important document. You will find similar aids throughout the handbook.

What should I look for in a reliable fire alarm equipment distributor?

Review the following important criteria:

  1. How long has the distributor been in business?
  2. How many fire alarm equipment manufacturer-trained technicians are on staff?
  3. Is there a NICET Level IV technician on staff?
  4. Is there a licensed professional fire protection engineer on staff? This item is important, especially if you need design services.
  5. How many trained and factory-qualified programmers are on staff?
  6. Is the company an authorized distributor of the fire alarm systems they sell?
  7. Will the distributor/branch office provide your staff with training for equipment and codes and standards?
  8. Does the distributor/branch office maintain a large enough inventory to support your installation efforts?
  9. Will they have any large projects with other clients that will be finishing at the same time as your project? If so, will they have enough programmers on staff to ensure your project will not be held up at the finish or CO stage? (Always ask this, regardless of the type of supplier.)
  10. Can or will the supplier communicate with the AHJ as necessary to ensure acceptance at the final stages of construction?

This list is not all-inclusive, but it is certainly the top 10 questions you can ask. Once you have decided on a supplier, give them the lion’s share of your business, and build a trusting relationship. Your reputation will be enhanced through this relationship. / Nickpd

About The Author

MOORE, a licensed fire protection engineer, was a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is president of the Fire Protection Alliance in Jamestown, R.I. Reach him at [email protected]





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